Here’s a great tale from former Apple employee John Lilly, describing what it was really like to work under Steve Jobs back in the late 1990s.
This was just after Jobs had returned to the company from his years outside, and he was determined to rebuild it into something great. He did, of course, but at the time, you can understand that his staff were uncertain about the company’s future.
One of the problems back then was leaks. Too many Apple secrets were dribbling out from the building and into the public eye. So Steve put a stop to it:
In the face of all those leaks, I remember the first all company e-mail that Steve sent around after becoming Interim CEO again — he talked in it about how Apple would release a few things in the coming week, and a desire to tighten up communications so that employees would know more about what was going on — and how that required more respect for confidentiality. That mail was sent on a Thursday; I remember all of us getting to work on Monday morning and reading mail from Fred Anderson, our then-CFO, who said basically: “Steve sent mail last week, he told you not to leak, we were tracking everyone’s mail, and 4 people sent the details to outsiders. They’ve all been terminated and are no longer with the company.”
Boom. As Steve probably didn’t say that day.
This tough crackdown was an essential part of Apple’s later success. The company was able to work in total secrecy on new products which, when announced to the public, were literally years ahead of the competition. The iPhone, in particular. The world’s other phone manufacturers were knocked sideways by the original iPhone, and they’re only now beginning to catch up.
Apple would never have got that head start if it hadn’t stopped the leaks.
There’s a lot more in Lilly’s post, too, particularly about Jobs as a manager, a leader and about the way he dealt with people. He wasn’t always the smiling charmer that the world saw on stage introducing new products.
It’s a particularly enlightening and interesting article. Go read it.